In the blood-chilling tradition of Halloween and Village of the Damned comes John Carpenter's unique vision of the ultimate killing machines, VAMPIRES. "Forget everything you've ever heard about vampires," warns Jack Crow (James Woods), the leader of Team Crow, a relentless group of mercenary vampire slayers. When Master Vampire Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) decimates Jack's entire team, Crow and the sole team survivor, Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), set out in pursuit. Breaking all the rules, Crow and Montoya take one of Valek's victims hostage. The beautiful but unlucky prostitute (Sheryl Lee) is their sole psychic link to Valek, and through her senses they will track down the leader of the undead. As Valek nears the climax of his 600-year search for the Berziers Cross, Jack and the new Team Crow do everything humanly possible to prevent him from possessing the only thing that can grant him and all vampires the omnipotent power to walk in the daylight.
Talk about an opening. The first few minutes of John Carpenter's Vampires
--in which James Woods's vampire killer leads a dawn raid on a New Mexico "goon nest" of bloodsuckers--not only suggests a horror movie that will not pull any punches, it even evokes some of the more disturbing dream-memories of American Westerns. Muscular and uncompromised, the sequence suggests a new Carpenter classic unraveling before one's eyes. Well, dream on. Things don't quite work out that way, but this is still a film to reckon with. There are a few serious (and surprising) misjudgments on the director's part, particularly a mishandling of Sheryl Lee's role as a prostitute poisoned by the bite of a "master vampire" (who pretty much wiped out Woods's team of goon terminators). But aside from some weaknesses, the action is jolting, the suggested complicity of the Catholic Church in destroying monsters is provocative, and the traces of Howard Hawks's continuing influence on Carpenter's storytelling are in evidence. --Tom Keogh